Steamed for hours and traditionally lit at Christmas, the brandy and fruit cake was made popular thanks to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

A “labor of love” and local Christmas tradition, the St. John’s Pudding Factory will be back in full force for the 2022 holiday season.

Run by St. John Evangelist Church in Kitchener, the organization has been making its Christmas puddings for “well over 70 years.” While the church itself is over 200 years old, the original recipe came from an English parishioner almost a century ago.

“We call it a pudding factory because, like a factory, if one job isn’t done right, the next one ruins it,” said co-coordinator Judy Shantz, who helped organize the event for nearly 50 years old.

Steamed for hours and traditionally lit at Christmas time, the brandy and fruit cake was made popular thanks to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843 according to Shantz.

“In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit came in: flushed, but smiling proudly: with the pudding, like a speckled cannonball, so hard and firm, blazing in half a half-quart brandy blazing, and the night with Christmas holly stuck in the top,” reads an excerpt from the classic Christmas tale.

As she leaves for the winter season, the November event allows Shantz to experience a community Christmas in a more traditional setting. And she’s not alone; a parishioner’s son was serving overseas on vacation, so the organization sent him a pudding, one of many fond memories Shantz has.

“When I was in the church office many years ago, I had a person who never came to church, but she would call me and say, ‘When is the pudding factory, I gotta go out for the pudding factory’ because she loved the camaraderie,” Shantz said. “There’s so much time to enjoy and get to know your fellow parishioners…or just go out to make a Christmas pudding.”

The holiday event features 40-50 volunteers each year – mere cogs in a pudding machine, surrounded by the smells of seasonal spices and cheerful conversation.

As a result, the Pudding Factory made 4,000 pounds of Christmas pudding at its peak according to Shantz. However, during the pandemic restrictions, the organization was only able to earn £600 due to social distancing. This year the factory will almost triple that with 1500 pounds at a new cost.

“We haven’t raised the price in the last eight or nine years, but it was necessary,” Shantz said. “We had nothing left from last year, so we had to buy all new ingredients for this delicious pudding.”

Shantz accepted a bigger role as manager after retiring nearly 16 years ago, but will share her role with two others this year, who she hopes will carry on the tradition.

Production takes place during Pudding Week, November 7-10. Orders are $15.00/lb and can be placed on their website.

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